Mexican National living in Polk sentenced to 17.5 years in federal prison

Published 10:00 pm Friday, June 10, 2016

A man from Mexico who was living in Polk County last year was sentenced to 210 months in prison, or 17.5 years, in federal court recently for converting liquid methamphetamine to crystal methamphetamine and trafficking the substance in Polk and surrounding counties. 

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office was among several agencies credited for assisting in the federal case.

The Polk sheriff’s office issued a search warrant on May 1, 2015 at the residence of 1869 Spicer Cove Rd., located in the Sugarloaf Mtn. community in Polk County. The county’s search discovered almost 8 lbs. of methamphetamine and a small amount of cocaine at the residence, according to Polk County Sheriff reports.

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Santiago Sanchez, 39, of Mexico was sentenced to 210 months in prison, followed by five years of supervised release for trafficking large quantities of crystal methamphetamine, according to Jill Westmoreland Rose, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.

Sanchez pleaded guilty in December 2015 to one count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Sanchez’s wife, Araceli Acuna Osario, was also charged in state court with charges related to the trafficking of methamphetamine and possessing cocaine, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

“All participating agencies played a crucial role in the eradication of this criminal network,” said Daniel R. Salter, Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). “Sanchez’s methamphetamine trafficking activities posed a significant threat to the quality of life in Buncombe, Henderson, Polk counties and surrounding areas. The removal of this dangerous individual makes these communities safer today. I want to thank our federal, state and local law enforcement counterparts and the United States Attorney’s Office, who had a direct impact in making this investigation a success.”

Included in the effort is Janie Sutton, Acting Director of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI), Sheriff Donald Hill of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Charles S. McDonald of the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Dudley Greene of the McDowell County Sheriff’s Office, Chief Allen Lawrence of the Marion Police Department and Chief Tammy Hooper of the Asheville Police Department.

“Through the homemade meth production operation Sanchez devised and ran, he was able to produce and sell large quantities of crystal meth,” said U.S. Attorney Rose. “Sanchez even involved his own children in his illegal activities using them to translate to further his drug manufacture and distribution. Sanchez illegally entered our country and began to poison our citizens through distribution of this illegal and devastating drug. We now welcome him to the confines of the United States Bureau of Prisons, where he will serve a lengthy and well-deserved sentence.”

From at least March 2015 to May 2015, Sanchez was responsible for trafficking large amounts of crystal methamphetamine in Buncombe, Henderson and Polk counties as well as elsewhere, according to filed court documents and statements made in court. During the investigation, law enforcement officers observed Sanchez conducting numerous drug transactions, with the U.S. Attorney’s Office stating that at times he used his minor children as translators on the phone or handing him the container with narcotics.

“Law enforcement executed a search warrant at Sanchez’s residence and an adjacent outbuilding located in Polk County and seized more than a pound of crystal methamphetamine, an Igloo thermos containing 1,680.9 grams of liquid methamphetamine, a burner, a pot with a lid, cutting agents and other drug paraphernalia used by Sanchez to convert the liquid methamphetamine into crystal methamphetamine,” states a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. “Law enforcement also seized from the residence several firearms, ammunition and $3,200 in cash.”

Sanchez will serve his sentence without the possibility of parole and will be transferred from federal custody to the Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility. U.S. District Judge Martin Reidinger ordered Sanchez to be deported to Mexico upon completion of his prison term, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.